Hi there,

Done well, by both counsel and the judge, the pretrial conference is a great opportunity to settle a divorce case. That is if you have not already settled it at the four way meeting, in which case you probably will get divorced on the day of the pretrial conference.

If you haven’t settled, this is the time for the attorneys to write a memo that tells the story of your circumstances and sets forth in the best light possible what you want, and why you want it.  By the time of the pretrial there should be no open questions as to values or assets.  If there has been a custody issue the Guardian Ad Litem report should be in and should have been reviewed. Both sides must file an up to date financial statement and should file an asset chart as well.

The idea behind the pretrial conference is that the judge can read the memos and the financials; ask the lawyers if they have anything to add then the judge can tell everyone what he or she thinks about the areas of dispute. Then the parties and their lawyers (who hopefully have also brought draft agreements … Keep reading

Hi There,

I was reading the other blogs listed on the side mine and there was this very interesting post on the New Hampshire Family Law Blog.  It goes to show how complex the question of gay marriage and divorce really is.

Then my partner, Peter Zupcofska, was interviewed and did a great job setting out the legal differences and how to potentially handle them.

Best,

Nancy

 … Keep reading

Hi there,

This sounds vaguely improper but it is the term used to describe the Court mandated meeting between the parties and their lawyers that must take place prior to the pretrial conference.  This requirement is set forth in each Judges’ pretrial order. It is important that before this occurs substantially all of the discovery is done, the valuation reports and appraisals are complete and have been exchanged and the GAL report has been done and reviewed by the parties and counsel. This allows counsel to have done asset division charts showing various choices etc. Often the lawyers will have exchanged draft agreements as well. The parties’ financial statements should be updated and exchanged too.

The purpose of a four way conference is to try and settle the case. Even if the case can’t be settled at the four way, at least the parties and the attorneys may be able to narrow the issues they are arguing about. It is not uncommon to be able to resolve parenting issues and still be fighting about asset division or support.

This then sets the stage for the pretrial memo and the pretrial conference (to be discussed in future posts.)

Best, … Keep reading

Hi there,

It is exciting to see the New England states recognizing the fairness of allowing gay folks to marry. It is a huge step and where people can marry they also inevitably will pay taxes and some of them will later divorce.  In these areas much inequity still remains.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) impacts the income tax and divorce tax status of gay couples regardless of whether or not they are legally married.

They cannot file federal income taxes as married filing jointly; when, and if, they divorce any transfers of property between them are taxable events, as they are not for heterosexual couples, and there is no deduction for alimony.

All of these are costly, but still it is terrific to have another state recognize gay marriage.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

Lawyers like to use arcane language, or at least language that only we use.  GAL is shorthand for a guardian ad litem, which is Latin for a guardian for the litigation, which is an arcane term for a person appointed by the judge in a divorce case generally to perform certain investigatory services in a custody or parenting matter.

The GAL is usually someone with a mental health background, although they can be a lawyer. Often the Family Service officers are appointed to do a similar investigation, usually in cases where money is a real issue. Some of the best investigations I have seen have been done by FSO’s. Like anything else it depends on the individual doing the work.

When two parents cannot decide on who should have custody, when there are allegations by one parent or both parents of abuse or neglect, when one parent has been accused of having mental health issues or drinking issues, or when there are removal issues (when one party wants to take the kids and move out of state) then a GAL may be an appropriate choice. It is an expensive and time consuming choice as well. Often … Keep reading

Hi there,

I keep getting sidetracked from the 10 Steps In The Divorce Process by breaking news stories and I have to admit this one (Mel Gibson’s divorce) is a bit tacky!

Admittedly when Mel Gibson married he could have had no idea as to how phenomenally successful he was going to be. He also, given his very public religious convictions, probably did not anticipate a divorce, but still…

Most states, including Massachusetts, recognize the validity of prenuptial agreements.  Mr Gibson hails from Australia, so perhaps at the time he married it was not an option; but here and now if there are, or may be, considerable assets, a prenup is a good thing. Prenups are important to consider if you or your spouse is marrying for the second time and there are children of the first marriage; if there is an inheritance expected in the future; if one party or the other has an interest in a family business. Prenups cannot decide anything regarding children but pretty much everything else can be dealt with.

I do have a warning, or perhaps caution is a better word, prenups do require partners to talk about finances but the process can … Keep reading

Hi there,

Since last week I have been thinking about the legal implications of the gay marriage decision in Vermont and found that it raises more questions than I had initially considered.  These relate specifically to the impact of marriage on a state which allowed civil unions.  This raises the issue of will the civil union be deemed a marriage thus increasing the length of the marriage and having impact upon divorce on all sorts of issues from custody thru finances?  There also may be issues because if the state now treats civil unions as marriages then if one party to the civil union marries someone else without dissolving the civil union, is that bigamy?

Clearly this will be very complex and interesting as it unfolds.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

Absent a trial (and at least 95% of all divorce cases settle without one) a deposition is often the only time the parties to a divorce testify under oath.  It is one of the most effective tools the lawyers have, both to find out what has really gone on and to discover what kind of a witness their client and the other side will be.  Any good attorney will spend time with the client preparing him for the deposition. A while ago I came across a really good description in the Missouri Divorce & Family Law Blog.

Then yesterday a buddy of mine sent me the following insane video as to what not to do at a deposition. It rates as the most incredible piece of bad lawyering I’ve ever seen.

Best,

Nancy… Keep reading

Hi there,

Discovery is the point in the process where the attorneys, using various legal tools, are able to quantify just what is going on financially, as well as with other concerns, such as custody or parenting issues.

The first financial discovery tools are the Rule 410 production and the financial statement, both of which are described in a prior post. Once those have been exchanged, the attorneys usually move on to Requests for Production of Documents (RPD) which are expansions on the Rule 410 production. If yours is a case where there are business valuation issues or a need for a forensic accountant (more on those in later posts) then those experts will chime in here with a request for the documents they will need.

At the same time as the RPD is sent out, the attorneys often will exchange Interrogatories, which are a limited series of questions to be answered under oath. Generally the lawyers also ask what are called Expert Interrogatories, where we request information from the experts and their reports so that both sides know what all of the valuations are. These experts can range from real estate appraisers, business … Keep reading